Hmm. Difficult, very difficult, plenty of courage I see. Not a bad mind either. There’s talent. Oh yes! And a first to prove yourself, but where to put you?
–The Sorting Hat, Harry Potter
In the wildly popular Harry Potter novel series, the central character meets his chosen fate when he comes face to face with The Sorting Hat upon his entrance to Hogwarts school house. As each new student is magically assigned to one of four schools within Hogwarts, The Sorting Hat interprets Harry Potter’s only thought as it is placed upon his head, “Not Slytherin!”
Harry’s friends are triumphant once The Sorting Hat announces that Harry Potter will not study in Slytherin, but rather in the House of Gryffindor. Harry takes his proper place among his cohorts and the story commences.
While I’ve personally never imbibed of the Harry Potter literary brew, I have recently experienced an analogous situation when my son reported to his very first meeting with the junior high band director.
As a musician myself, I’ll admit I had fashioned my own opinions and plans about how my son’s musical experience might unfold. I know I’m his Mama, but let me begin by saying the boy is a stringed instrument prodigy, mastering the cello quickly. Because of this, there was not a doubt in my mind that we would take the classical route of symphony over marching band.
But in consideration of the American tradition of Friday Night Lights, we were open to a marching band audition. The pageantry of football mania and all the human drama that goes along with it is undeniably an addiction of our household, so why wouldn’t we want to be a part of it all?
This was the burning question as we stepped foot onto the junior high campus for the first time ever. Per the band director’s email instructions, we looked for the green double doors.
Alas, there were 39 pairs of green double doors. We generally are recipients of Murphy’s Law rather than pure dumb luck, but for whatever reason, the most obvious set of green double doors was the right choice. I took a mental snapshot as we stepped into the band room and wondered if, indeed, this was the beginning of the journey of a lifetime.
The remembrance of old band friends I once knew caused me to conceive ideas of my own about where my son might fit into this world we simply call “the band”. Basing my estimation largely upon his personality, I encouraged him to try every instrument anyway. After testing the clarinet, flute, saxophone, and trombone, my son’s work with the baritone produced a resounding “Hello!”.
I struggled to call my Eli “Elijah” to the band director, as he became known to us all on his 11th birthday, by his own prodding. Since he did so well on baritone, the band director thought he might be a good fit for tuba.
Once that lanky son of mine was tucked inside the tuba like a lean pig in a fat blanket, I had to suppress my laughter and remind Ms. Band Director about a little something called stamina. I could only imagine my skinny Elijah in the 99-degree heat, marching around like a wet noodle wrapped in heavy brass. Not happening.
After one single episode with the French horn revealed how completely obvious it was that he just didn’t have the lips for it, something quite interesting happened.
“Elijah, I want to introduce you to the double reed instruments.”
Out came the oboe.
My exposure to the oboe has primarily been from my conductor husband either complimenting or complaining of an oboe player’s performance following a concert, but more often than not: Man, that oboe player was flat!
Useless Musical Trivia: A good oboe player is hard to find.
Something magical happened once my son picked up this double reed instrument. I know that there are sounds only a mother could love, but the band director’s delight confirmed my “Mama’s intuition.” This was no Professor Harold Hill moment, but I still felt like saying, “That’s my baby!” Perfectly on pitch, a round beautiful tone soared from the cantankerous oboe and my spindly baby graduated to the larger sized double reed instrument, the bassoon.
The bassoon is long and skinny just like my son. A perfect fit! If The Sorting Hat were in that band room, I believe he would have announced, “For Elijah, the bassoon!” then all the kids would have gone wild. Like the kids at Hogwarts, Eli hadn’t chosen the bassoon rather it had chosen him. Everyone within earshot was smiling.
I think this instance has reminded me just how peculiarly distinctive we humans are. We are each stamped with the imprint of God, as the potter fashions the clay. Unique in our own right and beautiful to a loving Creator, our idiosyncrasies validate the Ancient Words: We are fearfully and wonderfully made. The process of the bassoon choosing my son was no surprise to the One Who formed him. I eagerly await the enchantment of his music throughout the years to come, and my role as a witness to the workmanship of his life! With the tenderness of a mother’s heart, my prayer is that he will always glorify God with his gifts and be ever mindful that he is but clay in the Potter’s hands.
Read Brandi’s column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper. Follow Brandi on Twitter @BrandiChambless